Black 19th c. Member of Congress Authored Legislation that Created the First Public Education System in S.C.

Rep. Robert Smalls

Robert Smalls represented South Carolina in the US House of Representatives from 1875 to 1879 (44th-45th Congress) and from 1882 to 1883 (47th-49th Congress). Smalls was enslaved until May 1862, when he successfully piloted a Confederate army ship into Union waters and gained freedom for him, his family and the crew. He soon became active in politics and by the 1870’s, was a powerful leader in South Carolina. Smalls was one of the founders of the South Carolina Republican Party and was dedicated to ensuring proper educational opportunities for all children regardless of their race. He helped draft the South Carolina Constitution of 1868 and authored legislation that created the first public education system in South Carolina.

The dedication Smalls displayed in the 19th c. toward implementing effective education policies is an unwavering passion that is still seen among 21st c. African-American Members of Congress. African-American legislators continue to understand the relationship between education and social advancement in the United States. Since its inception, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has taken a leading role in shaping education legislation and encouraging reform. Avoice has captured this legacy in our Education Policy Exhibit.

The Avoice Virtual Library’s Education Policy Exhibit documents the CBC’s past involvement in education policy and provides resource materials such as debates, pictures and legislation from the archives of African-American members in Congress.

To learn more, visit the Avoice Virtual Library’s Education Policy Exhibit.

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